20 Oct 2020

Bridging the urban–rural digital divide

  • By 2025, 70 per cent of European households should have a broadband connection with 100 Mbps or more. Today, only one out of three does.
  • By 2025, all large European enterprises should have a clear cybersecurity strategy, with an additional 20 per cent of SMEs implementing cybersecurity strategies compared with today.

All countries continue to have a significant urban–rural digital divide, mainly due to the higher cost and risk associated with network deployment in less dense areas. As pointed out by Commission President Ursula von der Leyen in her State of the Union speech, 40 per cent of people in rural areas still do not have access to fast broadband connections. 

The crisis has shown that bridging this digital divide is a societal imperative, essential for the socio-economic empowerment of citizens and businesses residing outside of the large metropolitan areas.

The EU and Member States need to increase funding for available and affordable high-quality network infrastructure, such as fibre and 5G, in areas where the market conditions are such that private investments will not be able to deliver such networks on their own. Most countries today already have some level of public funds available for broadband deployment projects in rural areas, but these funding levels remain significantly lower than those for other key infrastructures such as roads. This distribution of resources should be rebalanced.

As remote access to corporate or public sector networks requires new cybersecurity solutions, all investments should include appropriate security measures integrated across all cloud, endpoint, and traditional network environments. 

The COVID-19 crisis has demonstrated that the increase of remote work – both in the private and the public sector – has made our society more vulnerable to cyber attacks.

This exposed the need for significant investments in security of institutions like hospitals, at the frontline of the pandemic and frequent victims of such attacks. Addressing this underinvestment in critical functions of our societies must be a top priority for the EU and the Member States.

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